Ford, Michael Curtis
Ford, Michael Curtis
PERSONAL: Married; wife's name Christina; children: three. Education: Earned degrees in linguistics and economics; graduate studies in economics.
CAREER: Has worked as a consultant, banker, translator, laborer, ski patrolman, musician, and Latin teacher.
The Last King: Rome's Greatest Enemy, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2004.
The Sword of Attila: A Novel of the Last Years of Rome, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: The Ten Thousand: A Novel of Ancient Greece is Michael Curtis Ford's first novel, a historically accurate Greek epic of events that occurred in 400 B.C.E. following the Peloponnesian Wars. Athens has been battered by the military might of Sparta, and the war-weary are called to arms by Cyrus the Younger, who is forming an army of Greek mercenaries to conquer Persia and take the throne. Xenophon, a young nobleman and philosopher from Athens and a follower of Socrates, embarks on the mission with his cousin Proxenus, the Spartan general Clearchus, and more than ten thousand other Greeks from both sides of the Athenian/Spartan conflict.
The army marches across a thousand miles of desert to do battle at the entrance to Babylon, where they are overcome. Cyrus is killed, and their supplies are cut off. When the Persian king, seeking revenge, blocks their return across the desert, Xenophon is called upon by the Fates to take the wounded soldiers north. Although he has no experience as a commander, he leads them on a long journey during which they meet enemies and lose men to disease, starvation, and frostbite. Eventually, the army emerges from the frozen mountains of Armenia to arrive at a Greek post on the Black Sea. With their survival, the story of this heroic journey became legend with the help of Xenophon's own writings. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that Ford "has some compelling material, and his account includes authentic details about ancient peoples, customs, and battle strategies." Library Journal contributor Jane Baird felt that the novel "retains much of the flavor of the soldier's memoirs" and that Ford "combines historical accuracy with eloquent storytelling."
In his next novel, Gods and Legions: A Novel of the Roman Empire, Ford presents another historical tale, this time focusing on Julian the Apostate, a pagan who becomes the first Roman emperor to accept Christianity as a viable religion. The novel follows Julian from a youth who fights to save the Roman Empire to his reign as emperor. Baird, writing again in Library Journal, noted that "the moments of humor and personal valor make this a truly compelling story." A Kirkus Reviews contributor described the work as a "stirring and adventurous tragedy of the first rank, written with all the gusto of a master pulp stylist."
The Last King: Rome's Greatest Enemy relates the true story of King Mithridates Eupator VI, who ruled over Pontus on the Black Sea. Pontus was once a faithful state of Rome until Mithridates took the throne from his mother. Once in power, he refused to capitulate to the Romans' autocratic rule and instigated forty years of battles that lead to Rome's declaration that he was their "greatest enemy." In a review on the All Readers Web site, Harriet Klausner related that the story "provides deep insight into the Ancient Roman world." Margaret Flanagan, writing in Booklist, concluded: "Ford has crafted a fascinating fictional biography."
Continuing his string of historical novels of the ancient world, Ford next completed The Sword of Attila: A Novel of the Last Years of Rome, a fictional tale about Atilla of the Huns and the Roman Flavius Aetius. The two find themselves raised as youths in each other's world's when they are each taken hostage. Later, back in their own countries, they become leaders and, in the end, battlefield opponents. Commenting on the final battle between the two armies, a Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote: "It's a massively long, brutal spectacle, supremely well-executed by Ford."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 2004, Margaret Flanagan, review of The Last King: Rome's Greatest Enemy, p. 822.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2002, review of Gods and Legions: A Novel of the Roman Empire, p. 1252; December 15, 2003, review of The Last King, p. 1412; January 15, 2005, review of The Sword of Attila: A Novel of the Last Years of Rome, p. 70.
Library Journal, May 15, 2001, Jane Baird, review of The Ten Thousand: A Novel of Ancient Greece, p. 162; September 1, 2002, Jane Baird, review of Gods and Legions, p. 211.
Publishers Weekly, May 28, 2001, review of The Ten Thousand, p. 50; August 26, 2002, review of Gods and Legions, p. 38; December 15, 2003, review of The Last King, p. 50.
All Readers, http://www.allreaders.com/ (October 7, 2006), Harriet Klausner, review of The Last King.
Rebecca Reads, http://www.rebeccasreads.com/ (October 7, 2006), review of The Last King.